Republicans’ new ideas

Republicans are reportedly working on  some  innovative but controversial ideas.  Here are three examples:

The parent tax cut

Robert Stein, a conservative economist who served as deputy assistant secretary for macroeconomic analysis in George W. Bush's administration, says the tax code is unfair to one particular group of Americans: parents.

He says that parents invest thousands of dollars in raising members of society who eventually fund programs such as Social Security and Medicare, but retirees who chose not to raise children get the same old-age benefits as those who did.

“Once a country adopts an old-age pension system, it creates an implicit bias against raising children,” Stein said. “One of the natural reasons for raising children is not just because you like kids, but to take care of yourself in old age. Once a country gives everybody access to everyone else's kids' money, it undermines the natural economic incentive to raise kids.”

Under current law, parents with children get a $1,000 tax credit plus a tax exemption for each child, saving a typical middle-class family of four about $1,550 per child.

Stein would replace this system with a $4,000-per-child tax credit. That parental tax credit would be funded in part through Stein's other big idea: Simplify the personal income tax to two brackets — one that taxes 15 percent of income and the other 35 percent. He estimates that few people now in the 10 percent bracket would pay more if they move to 15 percent, because of the child exemption.

But he acknowledges that some people would be bumped up to the 35 percent tax rate, mainly upper-middle-class taxpayers who either didn't raise children or whose children have already left home.

“To be blunt, the plan is a tax hike on the rich and makes the tax code even more progressive than it is today,” he wrote in a recent piece in the conservative journal National Affairs.

The idea has not been debated among the GOP leadership in Congress, but it has generated criticism among conservative thinkers who say the government should not reward people for behavior that they might do anyway, such as having children.

Marriage insurance

Conservatives have long touted the importance of marriage. Bush even established a “Healthy Marriage Initiative” that created small federal grants for pilot programs to help couples strengthen their marriages. (That funding expires next year, and President Obama created a pilot program focused on fatherhood to replace it.)

Much of the energy from conservatives went to promoting marriage as a cultural virtue. But Bradford Wilcox, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, says that it is important to highlight the economic benefits of marriage.

The divorce rate among college-educated Americans has dropped since the 1980s, but the rate has increased among people without college degrees. This creates what he calls a “marriage gap” that denies lower-income people the advantages of marriage if they, for example, get laid off from their jobs.

“We need to appreciate that marriage is more than an emotional connection between two people,” Wilcox said. “There are kids; it’s a kind of economic cooperation, a form of social insurance.”

Wilcox says churches, the entertainment industry and other cultural institutions would have to embrace this view of marriage, not just the government. He proposes federal funding for public-service announcements and other social marketing to promote marriage, modeled on anti-smoking campaigns.

And to discourage divorce, he says, states should change marriage laws so spouses who are being divorced against their will and have not engaged in abuse or adultery would be given preferential treatment by family courts in determining alimony, child support and custody of children.

Eyeing entitlement programs

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wants to dramatically change Social Security and Medicare. He says that the country can’t afford the scheduled increases in benefits, and he proposes remaking the system for future beneficiaries while keeping the current benefits in place for people already 55 or older.

He would turn Medicare from a government-run program to one in which people get vouchers to buy private health insurance. The amount of the vouchers would depend on the health and age of the retiree but would grow at a slower rate than health spending, which could mean voucher recipients pay more out of pocket to buy insurance. Ryan says competition among private companies would drive down costs.

For Social Security, he would change the way benefits are calculated for upper-income beneficiaries, basing increases on inflation instead of increases in wages, which in the long term would mean lower benefits than under the current structure.

For Ryan, these changes are not only about balancing the budget. By reducing some benefits, recipients of government entitlement programs would be turned into consumers while the role of the federal government would be reduced. For instance, he would allow — as Bush proposed to much consternation from Democrats — younger workers to put some of the money they would pay in Social Security into individual investment accounts.

“Government increasingly dictates how Americans live their lives; they are not only wards of the state but also its subjects,” Ryan said. “Dependency drains individual character, which in turn weakens American society.”

Democrats have attacked Ryan’s plan as a shift toward privatization with which most Americans would be uncomfortable. Other conservative thinkers privately say his plans are so expansive that they would be politically toxic to propose in the near future.

via Conservative thinkers tout three innovative and controversial proposals.

Which of these would be good policies and which would be  more  government activism, though in a different direction?

Christianity & politics, when everything is politics

Douglas Wilson has some penetrating things to say about Christians getting involved in politics:

James Davison Hunter has this to say about contemporary Christian political involvement.

“These qualifications notwithstanding, the reality is that politics is the tactic of choice for many Christians as they think about changing the world . . . It is not an exaggeration to say that the dominant public witness of the Christian churches in America since the early 1980s has been a political witness” (To Change the World, p. 12).

. . . .

Think about this for a moment. The “most dominant public witness” of Christians has been political. Assuming this to be so (and I believe it is), there are different reasons why it might be so. One reason could be that Christians are the ones with the problem. They have politics on the brain. They rush to the mechanisms of the state (which were modestly hiding in a distant village), in order to advance their public faith with the politics of coercion. In other words, these Christians have lost faith in Jesus their Savior, and are trying to use the political process as a sort of savior's-little-helper.

Another option, and one that I consider far more likely, is this. The political state in our day is swollen and overgrown, and has gotten into everything. Politics, the great secular idol of modernity, has virtually filled up every public space. This means that it is not possible to go into any public space in order to have a public witness of any kind without it resulting in some kind of political confrontation.

To this extent, to blame public Christians for being “too political” is like blaming Noah’s ark for being “too wet.”

Abortion and sodomy were sins long before they were constitutional rights. If a minister preached against them a thousand years ago, he was preaching against moral failings, and he was not being political. He was being public, but not political. When I do it, I am preaching against moral failings also, but I am also being political. What changed? It wasn’t the Decalogue. It wasn’t the history of the church, or the history of preaching. It wasn’t the nature of the gospel. It wasn’t me. Rather, it was the nature of the idol being challenged — and this idol aspires to omnipresence.

We are told, ad nauseam, to keep our morality out of politics. It would be more to the point to tell the idol-mongers to keep their politics out of morality. Public morality need not be political, in the sense we are discussing. Public morality need not be a matter that concerns the legislature. But if the legislature concerns itself with everything, then any faithful Christian expression will immediately be concerned with the political.

The secular polis is an in-your-face polis. The polis tells me what kind of light bulbs I must have, how far apart my sheetrock screws have to be, whether or not I can smoke in a restaurant that wants to let me, whether or not I can remove that tag from my mattress, and whether I can say that sodomy is a sin from the pulpit, whether or not it is in my text. In short, if I step into any public space in the name of Jesus Christ, I will be indignantly told, almost immediately, that this space is taken, and not to be a claim-jumper. I may (for the present) believe in Jesus behind my eyes and between my ears, but if it goes any further than that, I am clearly out of control. I am meddling with politics.

via How Noah’s Ark Was Way Too Wet.

HT: Joe Carter

Liberals and conservatives finding common ground?

I was struck by the comments on yesterday’s post about a law being considered by the Senate that would require all food producers to be registered and regulated by the federal government, something many people fear would devastate the local foods movement in favor of the big agribusiness corporations. I noticed that known liberals and known conservatives who read this blog both AGREED that this would be a bad law.

DonS, reliably on the conservative side of most issues, put it this way:

As for the larger impact of this bill, maybe it will cause liberals to wake up a bit as to the effect of runaway government regulation. Though it often seems like something which reins in those nasty, greedy businesses, most often it is the result of an unholy cabal of big government and big business, erecting every higher barriers of entry for a particular market to keep smaller competitors out.

He’s showing his conservatism, of course, but it occurred to me that liberals tend to fear big business, while conservatives tend to fear big government. But the prospect of “an unholy cabal of big government and big business” is something that both sides would decry. Could the problem be “bigness” in general, that huge institutions of every kind tend to become dehumanizing, taking on a life of their own and running slipshod over ordinary individuals, and just getting too powerful for everyone’s own good? (Perhaps there are exceptions, safeguards, and checks and balances. But still. . . .)

What would be some other common ground that conservatives and liberals might be able to agree on? Maybe we can solve our nation’s polarized politics right here on this blog. (The idea is not to compromise either ideology or to “just get along.” Let’s let liberals and conservatives both be that way, continuing their opposition to each other. What I’d like for us to do is to find areas in which they already, if we look closely, might agree.)

Tea Party game plan

Veteran conservative activist Richard Viguerie thinks the “Tea Party” movement may actually have a chance to roll back government to its constitutional limits, something even Ronald Reagan was unable to do. For it to do so, however, and avoid the fate of other transient political movements, he recommends this game plan:

Be independent.

Most important, tea partiers must remain distinct from both political parties. The GOP would like nothing better than to co-opt the movement and control the independent conservatives who are its members. But we must keep in mind that perhaps the single biggest mistake of the conservative movement was becoming an appendage of the Republican Party.

In his 1976 presidential primary campaign, Reagan said we needed new leaders unfettered by old ties and old relationships. The tea party does not have the old ties and old relationships with Republican politicians that Reagan was talking about and that caused so many conservative leaders to lose their way. Remember that most conservative leaders and organizations in Washington were silent when George W. Bush and congressional Republicans were expanding government at a record-breaking pace. Even today, too many conservatives are willing to overlook the fact that the GOP's leaders in Congress, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. John Boehner, were willing accomplices of Bush's spending policies and that Mitt Romney was for Obamacare before Obama was.

Go on a policy offensive.

We must take on policy initiatives that will fundamentally change America but that, because of crony politics, neither political party will touch. Tea partiers already know that promoting complete adherence to the Constitution, and particularly to the 10th Amendment — which reserves the powers not explicitly granted to the federal government for the states and the people — is the way to change policy. Using this approach, we need to move major proposals to the center of debate and action, among them audits of the Federal Reserve, a restructured tax code and an end to corrupt gerrymandering. We must also pursue constitutional amendments mandating term limits, a balanced budget with tax limitations and an end to automatic citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.

Pressure institutions to change.

We must expand our cause beyond anger at politicians. Wall Street banks once operated with the knowledge that individual integrity is essential to the functioning of a free market, but now we haveGoldman Sachs executives cheering the housing market collapse. So, rather than focus solely on government, we also need to train a spotlight on the failed leaders of other major American institutions from Hollywood to Wall Street, including big business, banks, mainstream media, labor unions and organized religion (notably my own Catholic Church).

Tea partiers must make ourselves a constant presence and conscience in the lives of those we elect. Once politicians get into office, they are surrounded by lobbyists and special interests that want more, not less, from government. We must push back by making our influence felt at a steady procession of meetings, breakfasts and dinners, and we must speak up via letters, phone calls, e-mails and town hall meetings. Too often after we send people to Washington, we hear from them only through their fundraising appeals. We need face-to-face contact to remind them that we’re here to support them when they do right, and that we’ll vote them out when they do wrong.

Avoid the third-party trap.

Just as the tea party movement must not be co-opted by either of the major parties, nor can it yield to the temptation to start a third party. In 2008, Republicans lost three Senate races because of conservative third-party candidates. Those losses have made it more difficult to oppose and defeat liberal judicial nominations, Obamacare, cap-and-trade legislation and other policies that, even in a best-case scenario, will take conservatives years to undo.

As a practical matter, the two major parties have rigged the rules against third parties, all but ensuring defeat. If conservatives fall into the third-party trap, they will split the right-of-center vote, thereby guaranteeing the left’s control of America for at least another generation. The opportunity of a lifetime will have been wasted.

This doesn’t mean we should automatically support whatever candidates Republicans put up. The tea party electoral strategy should be simple and consistent: We must run principled conservatives in the primaries and then throw our support behind the most conservative major-party candidates in the general election.

via From an old-school conservative, advice for the tea party.

Let me add some more advice:  Drop the violent and seditious rhetoric.  I know what Thomas Jefferson said.  Thomas Jefferson, despite his many good ideas, was a Jacobin, an advocate of a French-style revolution.  He is not on your side.

Try not to scare people.  Americans really do tend to be conservative, which means they have little sympathy with radicals of any stripe, including radical conservatives.

Any other advice that could channel this populist uprising in a positive direction?

Why do Republicans oppose the financial reform bill?

Someone asked me that question today. Is it just the current political climate? Don’t shady practices interfere with the free market system? After all, the stock market has regulations to make sure it operates as it should. Why shouldn’t we regulate these other financial markets that, when they go wrong, mess up the entire economy? Are Republicans in the pocket of the big investment banks?

Could someone explain? (Don’t look at me to do it. This English major thinks “derivative” means non-original.)

Books of influence

An interesting article on how most of our presidents have been big readers, and how the books they read have influenced their policies:  For Obama and past presidents, the books they read shape policies and perceptions.  Truman’s reading about ancient history led to his support of the founding of Israel.  Kennedy and Johnson read books on the poor in American that led to the “war on poverty.”  Nixon pored over histories in working through his foreign policies.  Jimmy Carter got his sense of national “malaise” from “The Culture of Narcissism.”   Reagan read Milton Friedman, which led to his free-market reforms.  Bush, contrary to stereotype, read extensively, and his reading of Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky’s books on democracy inspired him to attempt to spread democracy throughout the world.

What books have influenced YOUR political beliefs?